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Unread 10-28-2012, 09:16 PM   #1
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Memorizing key signatures

Alright, well I'm pretty sure I'm going to be tested on this in my music theory class. Can someone offer me some tips on memorizing key signatures? I dunno if I need to clarify that, but I will anyway: For example C Major has 0 sharps, G major - 1 and so on. I'm having some difficulty memorizing which key has which amount of sharps in it. Thanks!


EDIT: Oh, and my teacher showed us some sort of pattern, but it didn't really stick with me... He was explaining the amount of spaces/lines between where each sharp or flat is placed, like: up 4 down 5, up 4 and whatnot.
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Unread 10-28-2012, 09:18 PM   #2
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Have you memorized the circle of 5ths?
As you go up a 5th, you add a sharp in the key signature.

C has 0 sharps
the 5th from C is G
G has 1 sharp and so on



For tests, you can always make acronyms!

C G D A E B F# C#

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Unread 10-28-2012, 09:21 PM   #3
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It's called the Circle of Fifths for a reason. You know that C Major has zero flats/sharps. Move up a (perfect) fifth to add one sharp, down a fifth to add one flat. That's all there is to it.

Up: C-G-D-A-E-B-F#-C#

Down: C-F-Bb-Eb-Ab-Db-Gb-Cb

Accidentals: 0-1-2-3-4-5-6-7
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Unread 10-28-2012, 09:27 PM   #4
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No, I haven't gotten the Circle of 5ths down yet unfortunately... It's in my book, but not until the next chapter or so.

Does that mean my book is a little backwards then? If the Circle of 5ths makes it easier, why have the chapter on Key signatures before the circle of 5ths? EDIT: Why aren't they even in the same chapter... That makes no sense... wtf?

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For tests, you can always make acronyms!

C G D A E B F# C#

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And thanks for the acronym lol, I'm gonna use that one!
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Unread 10-28-2012, 09:38 PM   #5
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That doesn't make any sense. The Circle of Fifths is key signatures.

Ignoring accidentals, you have seven notes: A B C D E F G before looping back to A. If the note you're currently on is "one", counting up (or down) to "five" gives you the next key signature. Up for sharps, down for flats.

So for sharps, I start at C, count up to (D-E-F-) G for one sharp, then (A-B-C-) D for two, then (E-F-G-) A for three, and so on. For flats, I start at C and move down (B-A-G-) F for one, (E-D-C-) B for two (Bb since B is one of the lowered notes), then Eb, etc. Will you need to know how to notate them as well?

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EDIT: Oh, and my teacher showed us some sort of pattern, but it didn't really stick with me... He was explaining the amount of spaces/lines between where each sharp or flat is placed, like: up 4 down 5, up 4 and whatnot.
That's more about how you notate the key signature, not identifying it. That said, a quick trick for identifying key signatures with sharps is to take the farthest-right sharp and move up one note. Whatever note you get is your key signatures. For key signatures with flats, the key is whatever the second flat from the right is (F of course if it's just one flat).
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Unread 10-28-2012, 09:41 PM   #6
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EDIT: Why aren't they even in the same chapter... That makes no sense... wtf?
I'm starting to understand your confusion What book are you using?
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Unread 10-28-2012, 09:48 PM   #7
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I guess they want you to understand the concept fundamentally before you get into tricks for remembering it. The app Karajan Pro might be helpful for you if you want to drill theory ideas. It has the key sigs as well as ear training for scales, intervals, chords, and pitch, including some advanced scales and many extended chords.

Anyway, the circle of fifths has you covered, you just need one more piece... the ORDER of sharps and flats.

this one shows it nicely:



What you'll notice is that when you move around the circle of fifths, you are always adding one sharp or flat to the ones that were present before. So going up from C Major to G Major, you have F#. From G Major to D Major you still have F# but you also have C#, so F# C#. Moving up from D Major to A Major you now have F# C# and G#. They are always written in the same order in the staff. So you know that if you have moved up the circle 3 5ths, you'll have 3 sharps, and in that order. Morever, let's look at the actual sharp that gets added. For G it's F#. For D it's C#. For A it's G#. Always a half step below. If you shit the bed on the test, write out the sequence of sharps in order F# C# G# D# A# E# B#. Then, say you have to do it for E. Include everything up until D#. For the flat keys it's not as simple, but still simple. The last accidental (in sequence) is one fourth up from the root. So for F Major, you'll have a Bb (one 4th up). Bb has Bb and Eb and so on and so forth.
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Unread 10-28-2012, 09:53 PM   #8
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I appreciate all the help! You have been very helpful, thank you all!
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Unread 10-28-2012, 10:32 PM   #9
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I gotta be honest... I just created flash cards for myself. If you mean you want to be able to instantly blurt out the key sig based on the number of sharps or flats you see, then just create flash cards. Seriously.

Music school was a LONG time ago for me (and I only went for a year), but that's what I did, and after drilling myself for a few weeks I eventually had it down via simple memorization.
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Unread 10-28-2012, 10:40 PM   #10
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One day I messed with that Karajan app on the plane and had everything down where I could recall it immediately. But I almost never read scores or lead sheets so I've forgotten all that and have to approach it using one of the tricks I mentioned.
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Unread 10-28-2012, 11:25 PM   #11
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Unread 10-29-2012, 03:48 PM   #12
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Unread 10-29-2012, 03:53 PM   #13
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what's SW?

just to add: that site is amazing,
my teacher told us about it at the beginning
of this semester and I've picked up the language of music at great speed!

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Unread 10-29-2012, 04:28 PM   #14
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what's SW?
I'm pretty sure he is referring to SchecterWhore lol
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Unread 10-29-2012, 05:13 PM   #15
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You have a guitar, and you're on a forum with extended-range instruments. Just think of them, and it'll be easy. Fourths are just inverted fifths. Also, pretend it's tuned in full fourths.

Start with C, then go down a string to G. That's one sharp. What are the other strings? D, A, E, B... two, three, four, and five sharps. Think of an eight- and nine-string guitar. What are those notes? F#, then C#; six, then seven sharps in those key signatures.

Want flats? Then imagine a nine-string guitar tuned down a half-step and go up the strings instead. C, then you have F on the eighth string for one flat. Then Bb, Eb, Ab, Db for two, three, four and five flats. Keep going: Gb for six, then B (or Cb if it helps) for seven flats.

That's the way I remember it. Think of guitars.

...?!
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Unread 10-30-2012, 08:38 AM   #16
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How is he going to test you? Is he going to show you the key signature, and ask what key it is? Or will he tell you a key signature and you have to figure out the number of sharps and flats? If he shows you a key signature, you can always use this little trick:

For sharps: Look at the last sharp, then go up a half step. That's your major key.
ex: 5 sharps, the last sharp is A#, up a half step is B. B Major.

For Flats: Look at the 2nd to last flat. That's your major key.
ex: 4 flats, last flat is Db, go back one to Ab. Ab Major.

And for minor, I always just think of the major key and then find the 6th. Hope this helps.
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Unread 10-30-2012, 12:29 PM   #17
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As some have already said, it's important to understand the concept of key signatures and why they are what they are before learning tricks and shortcuts. Having said that, here's the system of shortcuts I learned that really helped me to identify (major) key signatures quickly.

If the key signature has sharps, raise the last sharp (the one farthest to the right) by a half-step and that's your key. For example, if the key signature has 2 sharps (F# and C#), the key is D major because C# raised half a step is D natural.

If the key signature has flats, the second to last flat (second from the right) is the key. So if you have 2 flats (Bb and Eb), the key is Bb. If you have 4 flats (Bb, Eb, Ab, and Db), the key is Ab.

To learn minor keys once you have this down, it's a matter of learning intervals so you know what the 6th is in any given major key, because the 6th will give you the corresponding minor.
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Unread 10-30-2012, 01:47 PM   #18
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Thank you all for the replies! You guys are all really helpful. I have another question though, so a small of my final will be identifying key signatures which I could use that acronym that MrPepperoniNipples gave me to help identify what key something is when the key signature is provided, but I'm sure you all know how tests like to switch things up, so what should I do if there's a part where it says write out the key signature, for example if it says "Write out the key signature for C# Major" Which would have 7 sharps. I know that you have to write it out in a certain way, but how do I know what notes to sharp for each one?

EDIT: Never mind, I think I figured it out, each time you go up a sharp, you just go up 5 notes starting with the previous sharp right? Can someone confirm this for me?
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Unread 10-30-2012, 02:08 PM   #19
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I think you're over thinking this and making it harder that it needs to be.
If you just have to write out Key Signatures,
memorize them. It's easy and you'll have to do it eventually anyways if you
continue to pursue music. Music is a language and the more time you spend
on it the more natural it becomes.

There is a certain way to write out Flats and Sharps,
like for B major, there's 5 flats. F, C, G, D, and then the magical A.
Where would that A go on the staff? Following the pattern already laid
out if may look like you go above the G, but you don't. You go down the staff
to the first A and that's that. Just take a look at every key signature
and you'll get the hang of it

Also, you're teacher doesn't sound too helpful if you're resorting
to a forum
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Unread 10-30-2012, 05:19 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ROAR View Post
Also, you're teacher doesn't sound too helpful if you're resorting
to a forum
Well, it's not that he isn't helpful. The way he taught it was by playing major/minor keys on the piano, showing us which notes are sharpened/flattened in each key. After that he just explained that up 4, down 5 pattern to us or whatever it was, and since I'm more of a visual learner I couldn't really grasp it very well.

I think his reason for explaining it like that and not getting into it too much is because it gets covered more in depth during the next portion of the class, which is next quarter. I'm only in Intro to Music Theory, so we're just mainly focusing on reading notation, doing accidentals, scales and rhythm type stuff. We're just kind of brushing over the other stuff, so when we get into it later on we won't be totally lost. So that small portion of the final for identifying them is to make sure that we know that little bit in case we decide to take the next class. Honestly I think the music program here is a little whacky but since the quarters are only 10 weeks long, you can't really get into everything in depth.
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Unread 10-30-2012, 06:35 PM   #21
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Ah that makes more sense, 10 weeks of hell it sounds like haha
My class is a basic music class that's only one semester so we've only gone
through basic reading, key signatures, circle of fifths, major scales, blah blah. Basic junk.
Good luck on your intense music theory ahead,
my best advice to you is to use musictheory.net every day doing the quizzes,
and also when you're playing guitar focus on applying what you've learned.
Running up and down scales in certain keys, improvising over songs you like.
Tom Sawyer is E major so there's a good start hahaha
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Unread 10-30-2012, 07:06 PM   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MrPepperoniNipples View Post
"Caroline Gave David And Earl Blowjobs For Cash"

Pro





Don't try this, but this is what I did.

I taped a printout of the circle of 5ths to the center of the steering wheel of my car. Instead of blasting music, I built out key sigs, extended chords, chord scales (yea I know its the easy way out), etc for a few months while driving. That stuff is literally burned into my brain.

Again, do not do what I did, it's not safe by any means.
I take no responsibility if you wreck, and I definetly hit a few things at low speeds while doing this.

Accept the consequence of risk
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Unread 10-30-2012, 07:24 PM   #23
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A trick I learned for learning the major keys - the last note that is sharp, up a step. That's the key. If the note that you go up to also has a sharp on it, then the key has a sharp in it as well. ie the key of F#. The last note is E, so you go up to F, but that is already sharped earlier in the key signature, so it's F#

As for Flats, it's the second-to-last flat in the key signature, but with flat in the name.

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Unread 10-30-2012, 10:14 PM   #24
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Hm. I wouldn't try to learn by tricks. There are 15 key signatures, that's not that many. You could learn this by rote, if you wanted to. Obviously, knowing the idea behind it is preferred, but I think you'd get even that if you took an hour or two to write out the key signatures. The patterns are simple and built-in. When I was learning key signatures, I studied those patterns and made a chart that had the notes written for the following keys:

C♭♭♭, G♭♭♭, D♭♭♭, A♭♭♭, E♭♭♭, B♭♭♭, F♭♭, C♭♭, G♭♭, D♭♭, A♭♭, E♭♭, B♭♭, F♭, C♭, G♭, D♭, A♭, E♭, B♭, F, C, G, D, A, E, B, F#, C#, G#, D#, A#, E#, B#, Fx, Cx, Gx, Dx, Ax, Ex, Bx, Fx#, Cx#


Major and minor. Haven't forgotten it since.



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Unread 11-04-2012, 10:51 AM   #25
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